When I write to you it’s to slow things down. People see a quote, they like how first strikes them and they hit share or like or whatever. But that’s it. Done. Gone. Sometimes these are primary bits of wisdom that are so impressive they’ve lasted thousands of years and yet they are almost always given only the most superficial attention.
When a Student asks: “I am very discouraged. What should I do?” it could be initially be viewed as flippant for a Master to respond by suggesting the student “Encourage others.” Because it feels a lot like the Master is saying, if you’re not doing anything useful then go help someone else. And maybe it means that. Or maybe that and something else….
Who is this “I” that the student is referring to? Where does the student’s discouragement take place? The Master directs the student to acting on behalf of their true self. If the student’s issue is their ego then they must be taken out of that state.
The student’s discouragement emerges when their internal narration creates a subject and object situation where comparisons are made to either someone else or to the student’s own expectations of what was going to happen. The “I” has wants and it never feels good when it does. So by saying “Encourage others,” the Master is asking the student to kill their ego by stealing the energy that it uses to exist.
Your ego comes into being as your empathetic and compassionate thoughts about others drops in favour of a small collection of habitual perspectives that you always use. These perspectives (e.g. pessimist, helper, victim, leader) all reflect the world back in consistent ways, so you add that consistency into your world view–what is known to you as You. The Real You is the one thinking your Ego You into existence.
If you are not mindfully conscious then every time you’re not thinking about some thing or some person outside of yourself then you will be using your thoughts to create an “I.” That self will have filtered personal experiences rather than just having the larger open experiences–as you would in the moment, without any thought put into an opinion about the experience that would require an individual to have that opinion. Better to stay in the flow as the Taoists say.
If you’re suffering then take that Master’s advice. Find out how much you really have by thinking about anyone or anything other than yourself. A flower, a friend, a pet, a person on the street; just take a moment to think about their life instead of yours. Look around you and see the lives you walk past every day. Not the people. The lives. Invest in those instead of yourself and your “views” and you will be a calmer and happier person.
The people you’re around every day have loved ones who are dying. Some have dangerous secrets. Some wish they could tell you they love you. There is much much more going on that just what you replay in your head. So a good place to start is to notice someone who feels like you and listen to them carefully. Odds are you’ll have some wisdom for them. And by sharing it with them you will be bringing it into your life as well, and you’ll be surprised at how much energy and vitality you get by simply expressing your natural compassion.
Your journeys matter to me. I love you all.
Scott McPherson is a writer, public speaker, and mindfulness facilitator who works with individuals, companies and nonprofit organizations around the world.